The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

January 18th, 2011 by Brian Leave a reply »

I have to be careful with what I read around students. I guess my face is pretty easy to interpret, because when I covered another teacher’s class at the end of last semester, students knew that the book I was reading was suspenseful based solely on my expression. I then explained to them that I was reading Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist.

I know that book two, The Curse of the Wendigo, is already out and I’m late to the party, but I’ll still give a quick opinion (aside from the fact that I don’t like the change to book one’s cover. I love the photo of the experiment beaker and miss it in the paperback edition).

The Monstrumologist is scary. There are no two ways around it. After reading a section of the book one night, I went to take out the trash to the alley and I was afraid an anthropophagi was going to pop out of the ground and eat me. That would be especially scary because yelling, “Look out! There’s an anthropophagi!” would take way too long and I’d be long gone before some other unsuspecting townsfolk tried to take out the trash.

The biggest compliment I can give Rick Yancey is that he made me question whether the protagonist would make it to the end of the book, even though the book is in first-person perspective. (Think about it for a second.)

The book is extremely detailed, though, so some caution needs to be shown. This is definitely not one for the elementary shelves. The first part of the book reads like a Discovery channel show where the scientist and his apprentice dissect pieces of evidence to track down the monster. The book gets grimmer as the hunt becomes more dire.

I truly appreciated the relationship between the apprentice and the monstrumologist. It mirrored the Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson banter of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories and had many one-liners worthy of repeating. Interactions with other characters are also enjoyable because of the well-written dialogue.

Also of note is how each prominent character represents a different philosophy prevalent in the time period. The monstrumologist looks at the world as an empiricist and treats the apprentice in what seems to be a cold, calculated way. A rival of the monstrumologist shows up and evaluates the world similar to Nietzsche, saying that there is no good or evil but only the morality of the moment. Apprentice Will Henry has to sort through his own philosophy as he witnesses the horror that the world offers and must fight to see what’s good despite what others may say.

The Monstrumologist is definitely one for older readers, but is most certainly a good read for those that can handle it. The students that have checked it out so far have been able to tackle the 19th-century vocabulary and I’ll be interested to see if that has an effect on the book’s circulation.


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